So is the Heidelberg Catechism Relevant?

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A friend of mine recently recounted the story of her battle with breast cancer, and how at one of her lowest, darkest moments, she was comforted by the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” She went on to say “In an instant, these words that I had memorized as a 10-year-old were filled with new meaning. I realized that the question isn’t ‘What is your only safety in life and in death?’ but ‘What is your only comfort?’”

She noted that the Catechism gets it right – to be human is to need comfort.

As I heard this recollection from my friend, I knew exactly what she was saying. I’ve relied on the Heidelberg Catechism and specifically that first question to get through some pretty dark valleys. I’m thankful I studied the Catechism as a youth. It forever changes who I am and how I worship.

But what about my children? They don’t know the Catechism like I do. Does that matter? I think it does.

I wonder what my children will do, and how they will pull closer to God when they walk through the valley of the shadow of death or any other lousy valleys in life. Of course they should rely on the Bible, which must be the focus of our learning. And they will rely on brothers and sisters in Christ. All that’s true, but the Heidelberg Catechism is an integral element of my faith formation and I will forever be thankful that it helps me in an understanding of the Reformed faith.

So what do I do about that? Who is responsible to teach my children about the Heidelberg Catechism? Is it my wife and I? Is it youth group? Is it education at church? Is it a Christian school (for those who attend a Christian school)?

I attend a church that has plenty of seekers and a growing number of new Christians. These folks don’t know what it means to be Reformed and they sure don’t know the Heidelberg Catechism. Our church doesn’t preach from the Catechism each week. Maybe your does. Is this part of the Catechism training for our children?

So I have plenty of questions but very few answers. Anyone care to offer some suggestions?

Posted in: Youth Ministry; Blog Photo courtesy Kurt Collins - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tymesynk/2190812109/ Image: See Credit

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Paul,

 

It's all of us, together, teaching the catechism, the faith, our biblical worldview, to our children!

It's unfortunate so many of us balked at our catechism instruction when we were young, but it's amazing theological and biblical treasures that we have lost in the rush to contemporize our church.  What about contemporizing the basic, foundational parts of our faith and sharing that rich treasure with our children?

We have seemed to thrown out or fogotten about...

the Lord's prayer

the understanding of the law

creeds

confessions

...and so much more with the bathwater over the last decades.  Not everywhere, not all places, but in far to many churches we've let the pendilum swing too far to experience and away from biblical, theological grounding.  Even as an adult youth pastor, I need to be refreshed in my own understanding and abilities to communicate the timeless truths of our biblical, reformed heritage in a relevant way to my students and our families. 

The good gifts that God gives us in this thinking from the past need to be passed along to the next generation to embrace and explore as a foundation for their faith.

I too Paul, have many more questions and concerns about how we do this well and in ways that will allow it to speak to the students we love and work with today!

Thanks for the thoughts.

Ty Hogue

Youth Pastor • Harderwyk Ministries, Holland

Hey Ty, nice to hear from you.  It's been a long while since we've talked.

I'm wondering if you find traction in your youth ministry around our creeds and confessions and the Lords Prayer. Does this "preach" to youth?  You relate as well as anyone I know to youth groups, so I wondered if you've found ways to pull this material into youth meetings and education.

Paul and Ty,

I agree that it is all of us together.  However, I believe it is primarily the church's job to give the parents the proper tools and instructions so they can teach their children at home.  As these things have been thrown out with the "bathwater" to use your term, a dichotomy has unfortunately developed between the church and the home.  This is where faith, the Bible and religious teaching is done at church, and sadly less and less taught at home.  When one's relationship with Jesus and their faith should permeate their lives, it has been limited, (not in all cases), to Sundays and perhaps on Wednesday nights at youth group (where sadly I have been seeing more social time then teaching of God's Word).

I wholeheartedly believe in the wisdom scripture that says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  Proverbs 22:6  However, alongside many life lessons, if that child does not see Mom and Dad practicing it, or hear them talking about it, teaching it, living it..... It is just not enough for the church to be responsible for it alone.

Having said that, I believe that our confessions, creeds and prayers are exactly those tools that we can give to parents so they can teach their children what it means to be a christian and to be reformed.  Now we only need to teach the parents.

Now to make my point I need to tell you a little about myself.  I am 25 years old and still single.  My family does not come from a Christian heritage.  It was through the mentorship of people in the church I started attending when I was younger, and God's grace that I am where I am today.  I am thoroughly reformed and believe that our confessions are very important, because while the Bible is the authority and the confessions are subject to it, they help me to say, "this is what I believe... Here I stand".

The reason this topic caught my attention was because last night I attended a discussion on the Belhar Confession, and if it should be adopted as a new confession by the CRC Church. I was greatly saddened to see that out of everyone in attendance, I was one of the only people there under the age of 45, perhaps even 55. 

It is my generation and the ones following after me that will have to deal with the long term consequences of this decision. Good or bad, adding another confession to our denomination after 400 years is no small thing.  It should be heavily weighed, discussed and prayed about, and the younger generations not only hardly seem to know what it is about, but frankly do not care.  We have become a confessionally illiterate church.  

As you both have stated above, I believe that our confessions are not only still relevant today, but that it is paramount that we begin to emphasize what it is that we believe as a "Reformed" church, or soon we will not be one.  So perhaps, before we start looking at adding a new confession, we should remember first what confessions we have, and what they really mean. 

Thank you and I am interested to hear your response,

Jory

 

Thanks Jory.  Well stated.

Within the Reformed Church, the discussion of the Belhar took place over the past few years.  I can tell you that passion around the Belhar came from many areas of the church, but found tremendous energy in the church planting, multiracial, AND youth ministries. 

If there was one area that, looking back, was pretty much ignored in my catechism classes (a long time ago), it was social justice.  Maybe that was just my experience in my church. 

Just thought I would share my experience...

I'm working with kids involved in the juvenile justice system.  They often ask me for "scriptures" that they can use to understand the faith better.  I find them in the HC.  They also struggle with idenity with families and gangs.  Who do they "belong" to?  What better answer than to a FAITHFUL SAVIOR, Jesus Christ.  I find the HC a treasure chest for a very personal relationship with our Savior.

Thanks for sharing.

Praise God!

So you've found that the HC is not only relevant but an essential tool in your ministry to youth. How cool is that.

Good conversation Guys. I can relate to the advantages of having our beliefs summarized in confessions. We take for granted how these creeds arm us for interaction by making Biblical truths easier to understand.

Ken

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